Day 363 (Dec. 29): Two witnesses take on devil and win through resurrection, seventh trumpet blast brings Ark of Covenant to life, woman takes on dragon, beast speaks blasphemies against God, three angels shout praises to God

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Revelation 11-14:20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Revelation 11:2): Is there anything significant about 42 months?

A. There are several numbers used in this section of the reading that all mean the same thing: 42 months, 1,260 days, and time, times, and half a time all indicate the same time period: 3½ years.  Part of the significance comes from this being exactly half of seven (which you will recall symbolizes completeness), so 3½ represents incompleteness, an uncompleted work, and chaos.  As always, there is an exact OT reference to what John is describing: in Daniel 7:25, the story speaks of God’s holy people being tormented by evil ones for this exact time frame, as part of a seven year cycle.

Q. (11:15): Any idea what “world” is referring to?  Earth?  Heaven?

A. It refers to the earth.  John has repeatedly spoken in his other volumes about not loving “the world,” by which he means the evil, sin and corruption of our planet — not hating the earth itself.

Q. (11:16): Just wondering if the 24 elders — and is there significance to 24 — is the Bible’s Hall of Fame, like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, etc.  Or, 24 is 2×12 — 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles — one of each of Abraham’s sons and the 12 disciples?

A. The last one.  There is some speculation that if this is John the Apostle writing this work (as is tradition), then the elder talking to him throughout this vision is himself as one of the 24 elders, if that makes any sense.  It is a vision after all.

Q. Why all these dragons and beasts?  Why not a man dressed in red with a pitchfork?

A. Dragons are scarier.  🙂

Q. (12:10): “For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth” makes me wonder that if Lucifer became extremely jealous of God naming Jesus his Son and that’s what fueled his anger and got him kicked out of heaven.  Just wondering.

A. I do not think Satan’s sin is jealousy, but rather pride.  He sees himself as superior to God, and desires to have God’s seat.  That, by the way, is why pride is often considered to be the “father” of all sin.  All sin, whether the decision to dishonor marriage vows, to worship other gods, to steal, to lie, or to kill, is ultimately to say to God, “I think my way is better than your way and I am in charge of my life.”  THAT is pride through and through.  To me, that is part of what makes the message of the Gospel so scandalous: it says that we are not alright on our own, and that we have truly messed things up when we go our own, prideful way.

Q. (12:17): Is the devil privy to all of this end-of-days info?  If so, I would think that he would give up.  But, maybe God keeps them going because the devil does help weed out those who are noncommittal.

A. Evil can always rationalize its own existence.  There’s a scene in a movie called the Devil’s Advocate — which I am NOT recommending — in which Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino, playing the devil, discuss what the Bible says.  Reeves tells Satan, “in the Bible you lose” to which Pacino replies, “well consider your source.”  I think that conveys the sense of pride and ambition that characterizes the real Satan: he refuses to admit that he will lose, and can justify all day long his reasons for defying God.

Q. (12:18): Can you tell us anything about what this number of the beast is, Rob?

A.  You bet I can.  The number 666 — which in some texts reads 616 — is probably a multi-leveled analogy.  First, the number 6 itself, represents mankind (having been made on the sixth day), and also represent incompleteness or imperfection, in contrast to 7.  Thus you have imperfection times three.  The text tells us that the number is man’s.

The number itself is acquired by converting various letter systems into numbers based upon their order in our alphabet- for example the name “Ada” in English would be “6”, 1+4+1.  The key for the Hebrew alphabet (22 letters, no vowels), is that after you count to 10, the next number is not 11, but 20, and then after 100, 200.  It breaks down as follows:

Aleph = 1, Beth = 2, Gimel = 3, Dalet = 4, He = 5, Vav = 6, Zayin = 7, Cheth = 8, Teth = 9, Yodh = 10, Kaph = 20, Lamed = 30, Mem = 40, Nun = 50, Samekh = 60, Ayin = 70, Pe = 80, Tsadhe = 90, Koph = 100, Resh = 200, Shin = 300, Tav = 400.

The most common interpretation of the two numbers is that the represent the Emperor Nero, who is famous to this day for his brutal persecution of Christians.  He was a “beast” if ever there was one.  If we convert his name using the numbers above, the name “Neron Caesar” (translated name) in Hebrew (which would normally be read right to left) would read: (take my word for it) Nun, Resh, Vav, Nun, Koph, Samekh, Resh.  This would give you 50+200+6+50+100+60+200= 666.  (There are similar versions using the Greek alphabet, but I’ll skip those for now).  Anyway, as today, Neron was more commonly called Nero, and we would drop the second 50, giving us 616.  No other major figure for the period gives us both numbers, but people in every era have used different numerical systems to identify their own beasts.  The Reformers used Roman numerals to identify the Pope of the time as the beast.  Anyway, there’s a lot of other theories out there about what the number means, but that’s my favorite.

Q. (13:8): Rob, I know we have discussed this before.  Do you remember where?  Back to the “being chosen” readings: Why do we have to live out our lives if it is or isn’t in the Book of Life?

A. Because we don’t know whose name is written there.  There is a sense in the NT, in Paul’s letters especially, that the Christian life is a race that must be completed, and that, I think, goes a long way to giving a sense of the ultimate question: Can we be faithful to the end.  Only those who can — as this book repeatedly attests — has their name written in the book.

Q. (14:1-5): Is the “special offering” the purest believers?  These believers were the best the earth could offer God, so they were a precious personal offering to God?

A. It is probably something like that, but I am not completely sure.

Q. (14:13b): I never have read anything about the Spirit actually talking to someone.

A. While we have not seen the actual action of talking on the part of the Spirit, one of the things the NT informs us is that the role of the Spirit is to “speak” to our heart and mind and remind us of the teachings of Christ.  So in that sense, His primary role is “speaking.”

Day 293 (Oct. 20): Jesus resurrects Lazarus, Caiaphas plots to kill Jesus, 10 healed but only one is grateful, Kingdom of God is coming, persistent prayers get answered

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

John 11:38-57

Luke 17:11-18:8

Questions & Observations

O. (John 11: 46-48): It would have been much easier if the Pharisees had taken what they had seen for good instead of a threat.  I think they still saw Jesus as a Jew (meaning a “lesser” person) and he was a mere carpenter from Nazareth.  So, this undeserving weakling (to them) was a threat that they needed to squash.  I know I have this same kind of mentality toward some people and some toward me.  I have a friend who is going through all this nutritional cleansing and at first I thought it was just a hoax — but it held my interest because I am always interested in nutrition and have open ears for some of my own medical issues — and then she recently shared how she had woken up the last three days at 6 a.m. with her alarm and she felt bright and ready for the day.  My brain tells me to not believe it, but my heart can’t deny that she does look brighter and I would like to feel awake in the morning.  So, I can see how you can’t see the forest for the trees or whatever that saying is.  Also, I think I’ve said this before that when I told several of my family — even my mom — that I was doing this blog, they seemed to me to kind of shrug at it, like “we’ll see.”  I think dreams are often squashed — not intentionally — by those closest to us.  I don’t know why humans have made affirmation so important, but we need to rise above it, pay attention to our talents and what Jesus has commissioned us to do.  I know this is a little off to what this Scripture is about, but I think it’s an important point that we judge people because we think we know them.  Instead, we should lift them up whole-heartedly!

Q. (John 11:55-57): I can see the drama building.  Jesus is the talk of the crowd and they are wondering — probably wanting — Him to show up, either to see Him for themselves or to see the drama build between Him and the church leaders.

A. It’s not just that.  One of the expectations of the Messiah is that He would arrive in Jerusalem (as described in Zechariah 9) and from there, change everything.  Two things: Jesus will fulfill this prophecy on Palm Sunday, but the crowd will greatly misunderstand what Jesus has come to do.  They expected Him to lead a bloody, violent overthrow of the Roman oppressor, and establish God’s Kingdom that way.  Obviously, we know that Jesus had something else in mind.  But nonetheless, it is no surprise that the people were on tip-toe, so to speak, waiting for Him: they had great expectation that Jesus, if He was the true Messiah, would usher in a new age.  Hold this imagery in your mind for when we read the reactions to Jesus’ entry into the city on Palm Sunday.

O. (Luke 17:19b): I like the footnote version better, “Your faith has saved you.”

Q. (17:31-36): Is this scripture talking about the resurrection or Jesus coming again to judge? Leaving all your possessions — and your loved ones — behind would be very hard.  We have talked about this before.  Since my husband and I are both believers, we’d both be walking toward Jesus.  I think there would be some gathering of children — although, I know Jesus would take care of them.  I think this picture is more of what the end result will look like.  Families will be divided, coworkers staying behind, checkerboard neighborhoods with some gone and some staying behind, etc.

A. This passage and others like it are images of what we call the Rapture: people just disappearing in the midst of their daily lives.  To be honest, I am unsure how to interpret this passage in light of other stories of Christ’s return and the Final Judgment that will be ushered in by Jesus’ return.  It is a mystery of the faith, but it is one we will continue to explore.

Q. (18:1-8): Just believe that God will take care of us.  But, keep believing in Him by praying and praying persistently, which keeps your faith focused on him.

A. I think it serves as a reminder that there is great value in being a person who prays daily with faith in the idea that God is listening and desires to hear from us.  What an amazing thought: God DESIRES our input!

Day 231 (Aug. 19): Ezekiel gives God’s message to those seeking advice but have “idols in their hearts,” God to punish false prophets, even righteous characters of old couldn’t save Israelites from their punishment, people of Jerusalem are but useless grapevines, God shows that Israelites are more sinful than prostitutes, Israelites allies that they have sinned with will witness Israelites’ punishment, God says sinners of Judah will be scorned by whole world

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ezekiel 14-16

Questions & Observations

O. (Ezekiel 14:14): I love when the Bible repeats past stories or characters.  It just ties it all together!  I especially appreciate Job.  He kind of came out of nowhere, but was steadfast in God and is remembered.

Q. (14:12-23): I notice the four symbolism here too — war, famine, wild animals and disease.  Those sound like all the categories that I may fear.  Does this correlate at all with the four heads of the cherubim?  One things for sure.  I don’t want to be around evil like that.  I can’t stomach it.  The other night, hubby and I were watching the Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  I couldn’t handle Jim Carrey burning the words “Happy Birthday” on his arm with candles or drilling a hole in his head.  I literally feel like I’m going to get sick.  Hopefully, I would have escaped Jerusalem a long time before all of this craziness started.  It sounds like a horror movie.

A. There was great risk outside the cities, where there pretty much was no law, so there is no guarantee that leaving the city would have improved your fortunes any.  Part of the process of sieging the city would have been to surround and patrol the city itself, to look for those who were trying to escape, so trying to “get out” would have been a great risk in and of itself.

O. (16:1-34): This is an amazing comparison — Israelites and prostitutes.  I think the point we can apply to our lives is that God gives us blessings — sustenance, shelter, family, talents, God’s Word — and we need to make sure we glorify Him with them and know that they are from Him and for Him, not for our own pride and glory.

Q. (16:53-58): Shame is almost worse than the punishment itself.

A. Shame, and public shaming in particular, was a central concept in that society, and it still is to this day in the Middle East (including Jewish culture).  To shame someone in public was to disavow them, to show that you were washing your hands of this person, and basically turning them over to the mob, as this scene illustrates.  It was a powerful method of social control.  God is using this image of shaming to demonstrate to His people what their actions are doing, and how He will respond.

Day 6 (Jan. 6): Sarah and Abraham promised a child, Abraham pleads for Sodom, Sodom destroyed, Lot saved, Trick on Abimelech, Isaac is born

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 18-21:7

Questions & Observations

Q. (18:12-13): It’s interesting here how God new Sarah laughed quietly at the thought of having a child at her old age.  However, later in this chapter, He says He has to go to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if they are as wicked as He has heard.  So, I’m wondering if God hears, but doesn’t see?  I’m sure He can do anything He wants.  Or, is it that He wanted to see how His presence affected the people — if his appearance and power would frighten them and they would stop their evil ways?

A. Certainly I think the writer of Genesis wants us to know that God does see, as we discussed in the Hagar section yesterday (“you are the God who sees me”) as well as hear.  We should assume that God is using figurative language for His “coming down” to see a situation (this same language was used at the Tower of Babel as well).  God is using the language of being a human being, who would have to investigate Sodom or the Tower of Babel in order to verify its truth.  But we believe that the consistent nature of God is that He knows everything there is to know (what we call omniscience) and any passage that appears to contradict this concept (i.e. God didn’t REALLY know what was going on at Sodom) should be dismissed as figurative.  It appears that the angels God sent were a final “test” for the area, one that the men of the town fail miserably.

Q. (18:20-32): God is about to punish Sodom and Gomorrah, but Abraham pleads with Him to spare the righteous.  There are so many points here.  Abraham felt close enough to God to keep asking him to spare all of the people if just a small percentage were righteous.  What made Abraham feel he could keep haggling with God? Abraham did plead with respect.  And, is God showing mercy here by not destroying all, for the sake of the righteous?  Obviously, Abraham is trying to save Lot … again?

A. While I certainly think Abraham is concerned about Lot, he appears to be testing his understanding of who God is.  Is it in the nature of God to destroy a town full of evil people if there were 50 or 20 righteous ones?  And the answer appears to be no — though the story goes on to present an alternative situation: God removes the righteous ones—Lot and his relatives — and THEN destroys the city.

One other note on this back and forth between Abraham and God (as a minister in college once shared with me): the story tells us that Abraham stopped asking before God stopped granting.

Q. (19:5): Sodom and Gomorrah sound horrible.  I see why God wanted to flatten them.  I guess this is where the word sodomy originated?  How can these people forget the great power of the Lord after knowing what he did with the Great Flood?  Why did Lot want to live among so much evil?

A. I could not tell you the origins of the word, but I would imagine there is something to that.  Regarding the forgetfulness of people: we quickly forget the mercies of God, even when we have been directly saved by them.  This is going to be a major theme of the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness: despite God’s constant interventions and provision, the people still rebel and abandon their oaths to God (something to watch for).  I have no idea why Lot would choose to live in such a place, though it sounds to me like perhaps he was not a person of great moral character in his willingness to throw his own daughters “to the wolves” in this story.  Lot appears to benefit greatly from the righteousness of Abraham.

Q. (19:18): Why does Lot challenge the angels?  I would think their appearance would be enough authority that Lot would do exactly as they say without arguing.

A. He appears convinced that there is a better place for himself and his family. Perhaps he thinks a bit too highly of himself, doesn’t he?

Q. (19:29): Why does Abraham have so much family loyalty to Lot when Lot seems to prefer to live among the wicked?  The covenant God made with Abraham has obviously built trust between the two.  God goes to battle for Abraham even when what God is protecting — Lot — is very stubborn.

A. Clearly Abraham honors his family, which keep in mind was the only family that traveled with him when God called Abram to start his journey.  Abraham is faithful to a fault here.  Perhaps this is part of the way the author wants us to see the goodness and loyalty of both God AND Abraham.

Q. (19:30-38): Ok, another weird situation.  Why didn’t they just move back with Abraham and find husbands there?

A. It appears that the author is giving us the origins of two of the tribes that live in the surrounding area of Israel during the time of the Kingdom (beginning in the books of Joshua and Judges).  With the Moabites in particular, they appear in regular reference throughout the OT (Ruth was a Moabite), and Numbers 21:24 and 22:4 points to the loyalty that God had to Lot (on behalf of Abraham): God told Moses that the Israelites (Abraham’s descendants) would have no conquest in the land given to the descendants of Lot (the Ammonites and the Moabites)

Q. (20:2) Why didn’t Abraham learn his lesson the first time when he asked Sarah to say they were siblings (Gen. 12:10-20)?  It seems that God views intercourse between a man and wife as sacred, but Abraham and Sarah view breaking that bond as saving their lives.  Maybe it takes time and trials to put your fears aside and trust God?

A. This is a tough question, because neither time that Abraham and Sarah perform this little trick are they punished by God.  Quite the opposite — they benefit greatly both times (20:14 and 15) from their deception.  God appears to “allow” this deception to ensure Abraham (and Sarah’s) protection in hostile realms (which appears to be the true purpose).  And as Abraham points out: they really are half brother and sister.  God certainly does put a great deal of emphasis on honoring marriage (it actually becomes His symbolic way of describing the unfaithfulness of Israel to her Husband [God] in stories such as Hosea), so why Abraham and Sarah are not punished for this action is unknown to me.

O. (21-6-7): Now, the jokes on Sarah.  This is almost a comical twist of events.  Sarah laughed at the thought of God giving her a child at her old age.  Now, she is laughing at herself in disbelief that such a blessing did come to her and Abraham.